How to get an SSL certificate for free and why you need it
In this article, we will tell you how to get an SSL certificate for free - I have selected four services that issue such certificates, and I will suggest another way, not the most obvious. At the same time, we will figure out what certificates are in general, why they are needed, and whether the free option is suitable for your business.
What is an SSL certificate?
You've probably noticed that websites start with either HTTP:// or HTTPS://. The letters in the second option mean that the site has an SSL certificate, confirming that the user and the site will exchange data in encrypted form. In this case, the data can still be intercepted, but without the key from the certificate, it will be impossible to decrypt it. Instead of information on a credit card, the thief will receive a chaotic data set.
The presence of an SSL certificate can be understood by the lock icon in the address bar:
If there is no certificate, browsers warn about the site's danger: attackers can intercept the data that users leave on the site, for example, their email address or bank card number.
What is an SSL certificate for?
First, an SSL certificate will help protect your users from scammers. What types of deception can be:
- An attacker will take user data from the data stream and use it for their purposes.
- More active interference - an attacker will be able to change the data. For example, you will transfer payment, and he will change the recipient's account and amount, and all your money will go to him.
Secondly, the user will be calm - he will see the lock icon and feel safe.
Thirdly, obtaining an SSL certificate will positively affect the ranking of the site by search engines. It is a sign that you care about the safety of users and a reason for the system to place you higher in the search results.
What are SSL certificates?
There are different types of SSL certificates, and they may differ in the number of domains and subdomains for which they can be used. For example, multi-domain certificates can protect two, three, or five domains. A certificate with the wildcard option is distributed to all subdomains of the domain specified in the certificate.
Also, certificates differ in how the site will be checked. There are three options here:
And finally, several trusted centers issue certificates - for example, Thawte, Sectigo, Geotrust, GlobalSign, and others. Their products differ in the level of protection and various additional functions.
Who can use a free SSL certificate
In most cases, you can only get a low-level SSL certificate for free, that is, with domain confirmation - DV. The option with a free SSL certificate is only suitable for small sites that do not ask the user for "dangerous" data like a credit card number. For example, this:
- personal blog;
- business card site;
For online stores and other sites that ask the user for financial and/or sensitive personal data, it is better to obtain SSL certificates of the following levels.
Where to get an SSL certificate for free
Another non-profit organization that also issues 90-day DV certificates. It differs from Let's Encrypt in compatibility: according to the company, their certificates are supported on 99.99% of devices. There is no wildcard option.
This service has a free plan - a DV certificate for 90 days. Like Free SSL, they claim 99.99% compatibility with servers, browsers, and devices, but wildcard is not supported on the free plan.
This service protects websites from DDoS attacks - moments when attackers try to overload your site with many simultaneous requests and speed up loading. A free SSL certificate is an excellent addition to the service. Cloudflare offers to get an SSL certificate for free and for an indefinite period at the introductory rate, which is intended for personal, non-commercial sites.
Free SSL from Cloudflare has one "but." Site loading is accelerated because the service caches your site on its servers, and the content gets to the user from them. Communication occurs along the chain "user - Cloudflare servers - your server," and SSL will encrypt only the first connection, and the data will go to your already open server. However, this already solves the most common security problems, like using public Wi-Fi.
How to get an SSL certificate for free and why you need it: what to remember.
An SSL certificate is a tool that switches your site to secure HTTPS mode. Thanks to him, all the data you exchange with users will be securely encrypted, and only you will have the decryption key.
Thanks to the SSL certificate:
- attackers will not be able to use user data;
- people will trust the site more when they see a padlock in the address bar;
- there is a chance to rise in the search results.
There are three levels of certifications:
- DV - to confirm the domain. Usually, only this level can be obtained for free.
- OV - to confirm the domain and the owner company.
- EV - for advanced confirmation of the domain and the owner company.
Several services issue a free SSL certificate of the DV level:
Free SSL Space – for 90 days, can be obtained for several domains.
ZeroSSL – for 90 days, only one domain in the certificate.
Cloudflare – unlimited, you can add many domains and subdomains to one certificate; you do not need to install a certificate on your site.
You can also get SSL as a bonus when you buy a hosting provider or a domain name.